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Stanford receives Sloan grant for on- demand education project

STANFORD -- A two-year project designed to demonstrate digital storage and on-demand delivery of graduate classes to technical professionals while at work, at home or when traveling has been established at Stanford University.

The Asynchronous Distance Education Project (ADEPT), supported in part by a $500,000 grant from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, will test methods to digitally store video, audio, text and graphics, and deliver these materials via high-speed network, the Internet and standard telephone lines.

"The high-speed network testbeds to which Stanford and industry sites are connected, coupled with the Internet, constitute a functioning prototype of the evolving information superhighway," said Dale Harris, ADEPT co-director and executive director of Stanford's Center for Telecommunications. "The primary goal of ADEPT is to establish the value of this approach in providing education and university-level training to working professionals."

Andy DiPaolo, ADEPT co-director and associate dean in the School of Engineering, said: "To remain globally competitive, American industry must continually reinvest in the education of its technical professionals. We believe ADEPT will be an important test of how engineers and scientists can access educational programming from Stanford and other universities independent of time and distance."

ADEPT is designed to address the time and place constraints that face industry professionals participating in live classes by providing video classes on demand to the desktop, using the high- speed experimental networks available in and around Silicon Valley (Pacific Bell's Bay Area Gigabit Network and Sprint's Silicon Valley Test Track) and the Internet. In addition, the text, graphics and audio portions of classroom presentations will be available over telephone lines via modem.

All three delivery modes will be specifically designed to encourage interaction between instructors and students, and students with each other. In this experiment, students will be able to use PCs, Macintoshes or Unix workstations. Thus, anyone with a properly configured computer can participate in ADEPT offerings.

Included in the project will be an assessment comparing the learning effectiveness between on- campus students, students in the traditional televised classroom environment, and students participating through the on-demand or asynchronous approach. Another element will be to study the economics of delivering education in an on-demand environment.

The two-year grant will provide partial support for the exploration stage and the offering of four courses per quarter during the 1995-96 academic year. The pilot phase began in spring quarter 1995 and involves two Stanford classes: "Parallel Computer Architecture and Programming" taught by Anoop Gupta, and "Communications Design Seminar" taught by Harris.

Joseph Goodman, ADEPT principal investigator and chairman of Stanford's Electrical Engineering Department, said: "Our faculty have a strong interest in interacting with industry, and this experiment will help enhance the important education and research linkages Stanford maintains with technology companies. We also strive to keep Stanford at the forefront of new methods in using technology to improve the educational process."

The partner organizations in the pilot phase include engineers and administrators at Sun Microsystems Inc. and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. Don Hoffman, Sun's technical liaison to ADEPT, said: "The knowledge gained in this project will allow us to improve our understanding of the network infrastructure and applications interfaces required to deliver multimedia learning materials in an Internet-style environment."

Smart Valley Inc., a non-profit organization helping to create the Bay Area's information infrastructure of the future, has designated ADEPT as one of its affiliated projects. Harry Saal, president and chief executive officer of Smart Valley, said: "We are very enthusiastic about this plan to create a coherent tool that will reach learners in new ways and at the time and place of their choosing."

According to DiPaolo, ADEPT is a continuation of Stanford's 25-year leadership role in delivering education to technical professionals participating at a distance. The Stanford Instructional Television Network (SITN), the testbed for ADEPT and now part of the Stanford Center for Professional Development, annually delivers 250 credit classes and 50 non-credit classes to technical professionals in the United States and abroad. More than 3,000 Stanford graduate degrees have been earned using classes delivered by SITN.

For further information, contact Harris at (415) 725-0433 or, or DiPaolo at (415) 725-3000 or



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